It’s little surprise that our culture’s appetite for connectivity would be a perfect match for our obsession with sports. Smartphones are the fastest adopted technology in human history, bringing the internet to wherever people are. And wherever people are, there are bound to be sports fans.
I am one of those sports fans for whom apps have become indispensable. Apps have helped strengthen our engagement with professional leagues, national teams, local clubs, fan organizations, alma maters, television networks, brands, products, you name it. And since the intensity of sports fandom is greater than most other cultural pursuits, it’s where we find the earliest glimpses of how mobile innovation will change how we consume entertainment.
The national pastime is a great example of this. Baseball was made for mobile devices. Being able to find stats and historical records in an instant is great. But where the sport really excels is with the MLB.com At Bat app. Consistently ranking as one of the top earning apps, Major League Baseball created a mobile viewing experience that is an improvement on watching or listening on TV.
With the app and an MLB.tv subscription, you can watch any out-of-market game. Live or archived. You can also choose between home or away commentary. So if you’re a Dodger fan, that means not only can you catch every game, but you can hear legendary broadcaster Vin Scully provide the commentary. And what makes the mobile experience stand out from the TV broadcast is the data overlay. Slide your finger from either side of the screen and you can view the full boxscore or the pitch graphic for each at bat. These are faintly translucent so you can see the action in the background and slide these windows away when play resumes. When the season’s over, you can also view classic games like Kirk Gibson’s miracle home run in the 1988 World Series or the Amazin’ Mets 1969 World Series triumph.
Other sports have followed baseball’s lead to offer their own mobile streaming services. NBA’s Game Time, MLS’s Matchday, and the NHL’s GameCenter app all allow out-of-market viewing of live and archived games. One advantage to watching these games through an app is that they often provide a better picture than the bundled TV package which is often a non-HD broadcast.
Apps also provide access to international sports that are difficult to find stateside. Fans of English Premier League soccer have access to a live stream of every match through the NBC Live Extra app. And for those interested in other leagues and international competitions, the Live Soccer TV app alerts users to upcoming matches involving their favorite teams, providing a reminder just before kickoff with details about which network is providing coverage.
For fans of more obscure sports like cricket, apps provide essential access that wouldn’t be available otherwise. The Willow TV app provides live coverage of test matches, one day internationals, and Twenty20 events. You can also watch recent matches on demand, so if you missed Rohit Sharma outscore the entire Sri Lankan team in Kolkata yesterday with 264 runs, you can catch the replay on the app. If you don’t have a whole day (or five) to watch a match, CricInfo provides scorecards, highlights, and commentary.
For those that travel and don’t want to miss a game, using apps that run with Slingbox or TiVo hardware can make that happen no matter where you are. Slingbox has enabled me to watch college basketball in Vietnam and English soccer in Barbados. Wherever there is sufficient wireless infrastructure, you can use your mobile device to watch whatever airs on your home TV – live or on demand.
Apps are even indispensable even when attending live sports events. Seatgeek helps users find the best seats available at a game. Baseball fans can also score the game with the iScore app instead of with a pencil and program. And innovative universities like Georgetown make apps for season ticket holders that allow them to switch seats after arriving at the arena. Once you’ve found your seats, apps like MLB’s At The Ballpark tells you where to find your favorite stadium vendors or the Washington Nationals’ Dasdak lets you order refreshments without ever having to leave your seat.
Fantasy sports fans also find apps essential. Yahoo and ESPN offer great fantasy football apps that let users track their team’s performance and make timely changes to lineups in response to last-minute injury notifications. Barclays Premier League and Yahoo also have apps for fantasy football – the international version.
Cable television networks apps like AT&T’s U-verse, Cox TV Connect, Verizon’s FiOS Mobile, and Xfinity TV Go all allow subscribers to watch live streams of sports programming. HBO Go and SHO Anytime offer excellent boxing coverage as well as sports journalism shows featuring Bryant Gumbel and Jim Rome. And sports channel apps like WatchESPN and Fox Sports Go feature streaming options beyond what is available through your local provider.
With all these options, you could live an entirely sedentary life. So for a change of pace, become a participant. Download the Gaia app before you go out on a hike and track your steps through GPS on topographical maps. Or go for a run or bike ride with one of the Map My Fitness apps that you can download as a bundle.
We believe, however, that some balance is in order so be sure to use these with moderation. You have probably heard this before if you have a significant other. Engaging the whole family in sports fandom is the surefire key to success. Failing that, you can always sneak in highlights on your phone when you have to step away to use the “restroom.”